Exploration and exploitation of a ‘terra incognita’
“Congo is richer than you imagine. The duty of a Sovereign is to enrich the nation.” These were the words of Leopold II in 1909 in Antwerp. Material wealth indeed inspired the king. But the profits that could be yielded from the exploitation of land and people were not the sole motivation that drove adventurers and investors. The new chances for science, the belief in progress and national feelings seemed to have been a major source of motivation too. In the beginning, the Sovereign had considerable difficulties convincing potential patrons. The African adventure appeared to be a financial nightmare in the first years. It was only from 1895 onwards, that the rubber harvest started to yield profits and the rubber tyres of Dunlop conquered the world, that the whole enterprise became a real gold mine. But it was not until 1906 that the mother of all colonial holdings, the Société Générale de Belgique, took the plunge and established three major companies. This was the kick-off for the construction of a veritable colonial empire.
- Profit motivations
- Benefits not for everyone